The Outcast Dead by Elly Griffiths: A review

The "outcast dead" of the title refers to the unknown dead, plague victims, lepers, or simply poor, mostly people who had no one to mourn them. The book begins with a litany for these outcasts and though archaeologist Ruth Galloway is not religious, she does appreciate the sentiment of recognizing the humanity of these dead. 

This entry in the archaeological mystery series features two mysteries. One dates to the Victorian era and the other actually occurs in the current day.

The Victorian-era aspect of the story revolves around a notorious murderer of children. In her latest dig, at Norwich Castle, Ruth has uncovered the bones of Jemima Green who was dubbed "Mother Hook" and who was hanged in 1867 for the murder of five children who were in her care.

Meanwhile, in the modern day, another child murderer, who has been dubbed the "Childminder," is abroad in the area. DCI Harry Nelson is investigating the case of three children who were found dead in their home. The first two were originally determined to have died from sudden infant death syndrome but the coroner has suspicions about the latest one. Then another child is abducted. Could there be two kidnappers/murderers or is one person behind it all?

Ruth and Harry, of course, have a history. They had had a brief affair, the result of which is a much-loved daughter, two-and-a-half-year-old Kate. Harry was married at the time of the affair and is still married to the same woman. That isn't going to change, but he adores Kate and revels in his relationship with her and the time he is able to spend with her. Meanwhile, his wife (who seems to be a saint!) supports him in this.

As a result of her archaeological finds, Ruth has become the reluctant star of a television series called "Women Who Kill" in which she works with a history expert, Professor Frank Barker. It is an extremely uncomfortable position for a woman who would prefer to work in anonymity.

The Druid Cathbad, one of my favorite characters in these books, had moved away to Pence by the end of the previous book in the series but he still manages to insert himself into this one. Moreover, we get to meet his adult daughter as well.

All in all, this was a worthy addition to a series that I have greatly enjoyed over the years. It combined my interest in archaeology (as a teenager, my career wish was to be an archaeologist) with getting to better know the main characters in the series, and it moved their personal relationships forward in a believable manner. There are several more entries in this series and I look forward to reading them all!



  1. An insightful review as always, Dorothy. I am glad that you enjoyed the book.

  2. I'm glad Cathbad still shows up in this one; he's one of my favorite characters, too.

  3. I will be looking out for this one.

  4. I'm so glad you enjoy this series; it's one of my favorites. I can remember how excited I was as I read the first one.

  5. The author seems pretty prolific. I'm glad you're enjoying the series. Harry's wife sure seems to tolerate a lot.


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